My life prayer is something that I have always struggled with, I can remember reciting the Lords Prayer as a youngster, memorizing every word, but not really understanding the context. As an evangelical my prayer life was sporadic at best and nonexistent at worst.
Compounding the issue, was that no one could tell me ‘HOW’ to pray, in fact I still have books on the topic that have all kinds of information about prayer, but nothing on the how to portion. It always made me wonder how people did it so regularly?, what was their secret?, and why could they simply not share what they did differently? They talked a great deal about the topic, but never seemed to say here is how I do it…
And then I read Anthony Blooms book called ‘How To Pray’, and though it took a while to settle in, that little Orthodox book has had a massive impact on my life. I need to read through it again, because there’s more depth in there, but here is the walk-away and the part and has had a huge impact on my life.
In the book he suggests (I’m going to very loosely paraphrase here) that you don’t start out running, you have to learn how to crawl first, then learn to stand, then run, etc…
I took that personally to mean that I need to stop being concerned about the length or content of my prayer, and focus on building a ‘Habit’ of prayer. That was my starting point, but then I faced the issue on what to pray, that problem is easily solved with any number of prayer books. My current favorite is the Orthodox Handbook (it’s a little red one, that fits in your shirt pocket). I read the basic prayer every morning, and every evening before bed, even when I don’t feel like it. And if I miss a night or a morning, I make note, and force myself to do the next morning.
I had baggage that needed to be dealt with as well, in the both the Protestant and Catholic faith real prayer is done on your knees, in the Orthodox faith you pray standing up, while you face east. Fortunately we have little landing right off our bedroom where we built a little altar with our icons, and it faces east (or Eastish if you will, it’s pretty close to dead on). And against what my instinct told me, I build it at standing height, even though I badly wanted it for kneeling.
I made a commitment to begin bringing the Orthodox faith out of the parish and the sanctuary, and into my personal life. I started with just a quick morning and evening prayer, I made it short and sweet and didn’t worry about the content. I just kept at it, month after month, and slowly I started to branch out, sometimes I read the whole prayer, sometimes I do the shorter version.
I found some 3×5 cards and started keeping a list of things that I needed to pray about, because the list was growing, and between 8 and 5, my day job tries to erase my memory. While all this may seem very basic there is one key thing here…
No I’m not doing two hours a day, but I am stopping each morning and each evening and doing my prayers, in fact going downstairs without praying seems to be an odd thing now. Which is what Anthony Bloom was talking about, and what I wanted when I started out on this path.
So if you find your prayer life is sporadic, or needs some work. You can pick up Blooms book on Amazon, or you can just start small, as small as you are comfortable with. And then work at making it a habit, don’t get discouraged if you miss a day or a stretch of them. This isn’t a race, it’s a foundation, your doing it one brick at a time, so take the time to get it right.
And if your struggling to find a starting prayer, the Orthodox Trisagion is a good starting point:
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Glory to thee, our God, glory to thee.
O heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of truth, who art in all places and fillest all things; Treasury of good things and Giver of life: Come and dwell in us and cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O gracious Lord.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal: have mercy on us. (Thrice)
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
All-holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, cleanse us from our sins. Master, pardon our iniquities. Holy God, visit and heal our infirmities for thy Name’s sake.
Lord, have mercy. (Thrice)
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us.
I’ve been interested for some time in the Orthodox faith, we considered the Orthodox church while still looking but at the time didn’t know any local parishes. One thing that has always bothered me is that if the Catholic (West or Latin) Church, had the same deposit of truth as the Orthodox or Eastern Church, then why the big split? They disagree on a number of theological and ecclesiological (study of the Christian Church) issues, especially around the Papacy.
Having read Steven Ray’s book on the papacy (Upon This Rock) I thought the issue was settled, at least it was for me. That is until I read the Apostolic Fathers for myself, and then started reading a book called “His Broken Body: Understanding and Healing the Schism Between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches” by Laurent Cleenewerck. Two things happened to my theology:
1. I did not find anywhere in the Apostolic Fathers a direct mention of the papal seat as we know it today, which was surprising to me given how much I have read from Apologists that the Church Fathers fully supported the divine and universal aspect of the see of Peter.
2. I started to question what I actually thought I knew, and began to realize that I really hadn’t done a good job in my study of the Catholic church orthodoxy, my RCIA class was so light on the topic that I was shocked to learn that papal infallibility was made Dogma in 1870 at the Vatican I council (I thought it was declared long before 1870, which is like yesterday for a church with 2000 years history).
I’ve been working my way through Cleenewercks book (he has the coolest name ever!), and what I have found is the RARE and I do mean RARE, apologist who actually presents and irenic argument to make his case. Michael Patton at Reclaiming the Mind taught me well that being irenic in arguing a point was always a much better option. The other night I picked up the book of a very famous Catholic Apologist and thumbed over the section on the pope, I was curious to see how he handled the issue when challenged. What I found surprised me, he quoted the writing of one of the church fathers, and the quote on it’s own would make anyone think that the father fully supported the universal power of the papal office. But the truth is that this church father actually challenged the universal and divine power of the roman bishop, but still held that the papacy was indeed founded by Christ through Peter. It’s a subtle point, but it makes a world of difference, because in the Catholic faith, the Papacy has been handed the keys the kingdom and has both divine and universal power over the Christian faith.
St. Augustine was famous for saying ‘Let the reader decide’, that is the irenic approach. Give a good accounting of both sides of the issue, and then leave it to the reader to make the right choice. But in today’s world of hack apologists, theologians with an axe to grind, there are few who are brave enough to follow that path. Instead they quote selectively and leave out any piece that would weaken their position, they do it both with Scripture and now as I’m finding out with the church fathers.
This is why I always look for apologists who are not afraid to say that their position in one area is weak, or that we just don’t know for sure. And I do everything in my power to avoid the current trend of learning scripture and orthodoxy through ‘feelings’, this morning after Mass, a couple was taking applications for a small group study, so we stopped by to see what they had to offer. It was a little workbook, that had you read some scriptures. Then you joined your small group and talked about how the scripture affected you…
That’s what is passing for church approved study material?, I got my fill of that in the RCIA classes, where the last 45 minutes of each class was a question and answer session that allowed people to express their feelings! Because we all know that actually studying what the church believes is not nearly as important as how something moves me emotionally! What a pile of horse droppings, IF we are to be Catholic, then we should be TEACHING orthodox material. We should be instructing people in their faith, not asking if they feel all warm and fuzzy inside!
An interesting side note, we had a lady approach us today after service and introduce herself, she said she had noticed us attending for a while. She also commented that and her husband noticed that during the Our Father prayer we don’t hold hands, we told her that basically the GIRM (General Instruction for the Roman Missal, the rules of the liturgy) does NOT state that holding hands is part of the service, so we don’t do it. She said she and her husband do the same thing!, it was good to know that we are not alone in sticking the traditions as they are written…
So I’d like to give a huge Clink of the glass to Laurent Cleenewerck, who had the guts to write a book that seeks out the truth rather his opinion. I’m not Orthodox yet, but his book really has me going back and rethinking what I thought I knew, and THAT my friends is what good apologetics should do…
Before we started our journey to the Catholic faith, I had begun to study the origins of the Bible. Moving for a while into apologetics, then theology. Last year in an unintentional attempt to do it all wrong I started studying Philosophy.
At each stage I’ve consumed a large number of books on various topics, along the the way I’ve learned a number of very important lessons that may seem common sense to some, but I thought I would share regardless. One question I’ve often been asked is who can I trust when reading books on church history, theology or apologetics? I would love to give a simple answer, but nothing is ever that easy. When I’m looking to study a specific topic, I use a number of things to figure out if the author is going to be worth my time:
1. I try to match the authors expertise to the topic being written about, for instance when I wanted to study the Catholic Catechism, I looked for someone who others felt was influential in the area. In my case it Fr John Hardon, who is considered one of the great Catholic Theologians of the last century was the perfect choice.
2. I use Amazon and the internet to read reviews about the authors books, in particular I look for reviews where people with opposing views (and they are always out there), give fair comments about the author. I shy away from books where it sounds like the local fan club wrote all the articles, I want someone who has the guts to make at least ONE person upset!!
3. When possible I look to see what viewpoint the author is coming from, for instance Neil R. Lightfoot has a very good book on how we got the bible, but Neil is from the Church of Christ and his theology effects the context and tone of his book. Especially in the area of the Catholic Church. It’s not that I would never read anything from Neil, but if I know that Neil has a bias against Catholics that will help put into context the voice of his writing.
4. I look for authors who are not afraid to call a spade a spade, especially on their own faith. I don’t believe that ANY faith, including the Catholic church has EVERY issue right, and I’m not interested in reading someone who is more interested in pushing their faiths position, than telling the truth as they see it. This is really important to me, I don’t want to listen to a cheerleader, I want someone with critical thinking skills, who hasn’t been brainwashed or deluded themselves into thinking that everything is peachy.
5. Finally I stay away from polishers, these are people who use antiquated language or spend more time telling you everything is rosy and perfect in their world, than talking about real issues. I read a book one time about how to study the bible and I finally had to put it down, because I don’t know what world the author was living in, but I’m pretty sure it had unicorns, rainbows and cotton candy clouds. I despise condescending language, especially in books.
I have a list of favorite authors, which I will share in another post. I try when possible to stick with the ones I’ve come to trust and will sometimes give other authors a shot, if they are referenced by someone I trust. I have a very short list of authors who I trust, and a larger list of those who I will read, but I’m still very cautious in choosing reading material.
One more thing to note, for topics like the history of the early church, I have found that going directly to the source has been the best way to learn it, that removes any outside influence and allows me to decide for myself what is being said. You can find almost all the church fathers directly translated (and many of them are free if you have a Kindle), it’s eye opening when you actually read what Clement or Ignatius actually wrote, it’s sometimes very different from what others will tell you they said 😉
I bought this book while at the local Catholic trinket shop, I call it that, because even though it has books, it has way more statues, icons and other trinkets than anything else. I mean who really needs 20 choices of bottles to hold Holy water?, but I digress. The title intrigued me, having read Neil Lightfoots book on ‘How we got the Bible’, I never got a good answer on the deuterocanonicals. So I felt like something was missing, as well Lightfoot, whether intentionally or not, makes the Catholic Church sound like an Ogre when it comes to the spread of the Bible in the protestant era.
I started this book a couple of times, but it wasn’t until I started a morning routine of reading someone with Apologetic or Theological content to increase my understanding, did I really dig into it. A couple of comments right out the of gate…
- The book really needs an introduction, that explains where Michuta is going and how he intends to get there. Without any fanfare the book dives right into the heart of the matter, which threw me a bit.
- The content needs a good once over by a good editor and proof reader, there are some grammatical issues in various places, and missing words (which bug me when I’m deeply reading something).
- The content is very good, but the footnotes can get a little out of control, spanning multiple pages, with footnotes that good, they should be part of the books content. Leave the footnotes for shorter items.
That being said, I found Michuta’s arguments to be incredibly well done. The only area that I felt was a little out of place, was the discussion of Luther and how he changed his mind on what was canonical and what was not. It was a good part of the argument, but if you are going to make claims that Luther changed his mind because certain books didn’t fit his theology (which I’ve read before in many other sources), then you really need to devote a whole chapter to Luther and his character. Otherwise you run the risk of leaving the door wide open for Luther apologists to eat away at the foundation of your argument. Because after all, your maligning the character of one of the great hero’s of the reformation, you really do need to spell it out. Tt’s the same with Calvin, I like what he has to say about Calvin, but there really needed to more on who and what Calvin was.
I only mention these things to be clear and honest, I found Michuta’s style and prose to be very enjoyable. And when he got to Jerome, I had to stop and re-read it to make sure I understood where he was headed. I’ve read through selected works of the early fathers, but have not had time yet to do a full on study of all their writings. So I knew of Jerome, but I knew nothing of his theory of ‘Hebrew Verity’. Once Michuta laid that out, I knew where he was headed and how we ended up where we are today, and the book came alive. I looked forward to digging into it each morning.
While this is definitely a book by a Catholic apologist, I would recommend it to anyone who wants to understand more about the bible, it’s creation and why there are so many different versions. The history on the Bible society’s was very enlightening, and filled a number of gaps in that I could never figure out. There was such a radical departure between the late 18th century and what we have today, and it didn’t make any sense, until he explained the role of the bible society’s in shaping the protestant canon.
This book is a must read for anyone who wants to know more about the history of the bible, how it fit into the early church and why its so radically different today, from what the Church used for 1500 years. And Mr Michuta gets an extra gold star for being honest and calling out truth above polemics apologetics, even noting that some Catholic apologists make claims that are not fully true.
For me the only kind of apologist I trust anymore are the ones who are not afraid to point out a truth, even if it means that their side takes a hit.
Good book, good read, and a great resource. My only real complaint is that I wish there was a kindle version, so I could more easily look up information and quote from from it as a source.
You can find the book on Amazon at this link: Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger